MILFORD – The 10th annual Winter Lights Festival was celebrated this past weekend in Milford. The ever-growing popularity of the Mac & Chili competition was met with the dazzling art of figure ice skating in the rink at Ann Street Park.
Mike Carson, the event’s founder, was at the microphone emceeing the spectacle on the frozen white expanse, as the agile skaters swirled. The throngs of admirers, decked in winter garb lined the perimeter, heads turning in pace with the graceful, fluid movements of each participant. Music accompanied most, and a narration of a mythic story, “Merlin Awakens” was illustrated with the art of two of the twirling ice dancers.  This was a love tale about Merlin and Morgan Le Fey and the magic they used to control one another, according to Carson.
Carson expressed his pleasure at being able to bring the show to Milford these past 10 years. This has been his weekend getaway the last 37 years. The New Yorker said he has been in theater since he was five years of age. The last 40 years he has done many events and live shows. He is the founder and president of Michael Carson Productions focusing on producing Fortune 500 corporate meetings and events. He also developed and produced three Off-Off Broadway plays and a musical with a cast of 25 at the NY International Fringe Festival.
A lover of myths and legends, he said that puppets and ice skating are means to tell the stories; he utilizes both. Myths, he said, are very ancient and part of us as humans. They are a means to tell “who we are are, who we were and who we can be,” he reflected.
They have not had the ice show at Winter Lights every year, since it is so dependent on the weather. In fact, the ice show was cancelled the past two years.
 It is also a conundrum that it can be 15 degrees above zero and wonderful ice conditions, but the crowd is sparse; it can be in the 40’s and a nice crowd turns out, but the ice is compromised. This year they tried to hurry the show, as they were losing their ice. Public skating was to follow the show, but was cancelled due to the milder weather, as were the ice rink events on Sunday.
Five skaters performed.
Beth Woronoff, founder and choreographer of Frozen Feet Theater, had injured her foot about three years ago. She thought her skating career was over, but a friend and choreographer, David Brown, worked on her foot and encouraged her on. Ten days before the show she started practicing. She opened the show in Milford with a number entitled “Backing & Forthing.”
Also performing were Laura Jacobson; Jordan Hartley of Milford- a regular at the Winter Lights Festival ice show; Korley Lovett and Angela Paxos.  Korley, the only male performer, portrayed Merlin in “Merlin Awakens.” In addition, Jeanne Zingaro of Jen Murphy Fitness helped warm the crowd with an opening jazzercise performance.
A great ice monolith and a huge snowman stood next to the ice rink.
The Milford Parks & Recreation Committee, Scott Sheldon, Beth Papa, Mike Zimmerman, Jeff Mackey and Councilwoman Annette Haar, as well as members of the community, were thanked for providing the ice rink in the park. The rink is free to use, when weather conditions permit.
Carson also thanked the POAC, the Greater Pike Community Trust Fund and the Citizens for the Arts for their ongoing support of the festival.
Deb Bailey said that the Mac & Chili competition was very popular, their biggest ever. Held at the Dimmick Inn, this was the 6th year for the event. There were 147 people who came out to sample the macaroni & cheese and the chili, and were asked to vote for their favorites. There were 18 contestants, including individual cooks and restaurants. There were 143 ballots.
In the chili category, 1st place went to Jason Lyons; 2nd place to Apple Valley Restaurant and 3rd place to Bernice Williams.
In the macaroni & cheese division, 1st place went to Bernice Williams, 2nd place to Apple Valley Restaurant and 3rd place to Dimmick Inn.
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Portions of this story are from an article posted by The Times Herald Record, and written by reporter Jessica Cohen.
More information about Carson’s work may be found at frozenfeettheater.org.